It's hard to describe what it's like to be a single mum. No, it's not the same as being a married mum. And oh, double-no, single mums don't have it harder or easier than married mums. Motherhood is glorious and tricky all in the same gulp. And it's different for everyone. But those of us who have gone the solo parenting route know these unanimous truths:
1. Being a one-woman circus. When you're a single mum you're in charge of your child's day-to-day life. This means you get to be a chef, banker, baseball coach, nurse, homework helper, chauffeur, comedian, stylist, groomer, cuddler…everything. In short, there is no other parent to step in when you have the stomach flu or are in the shower and your kid just needs help with the freakin' rainbow loom. No one comes home at the end of the day to relieve you or even join forces. It's cool — you're strong!
2. Having to explain where the other parent is. My son's father plays a non-existent role in his life. He doesn't even send a birthday card, let alone FaceTime, or gasp, visit. This means, in addition to handling everything else (see point 1), I also get to explain where my kid's dad is — living in another state with his family. Seems hard and emotional, but honesty is the best policy!
3. Dealing with paternal relatives. My son's dad may not be involved, but that doesn't mean his family isn't involved. My child's grandparents and great grandparent's on his father's side email, call. and send my son holiday and birthday cards/gifts. It's super sweet and completely welcomed. Complicated, but it's great to have as many people in my child's life that are loving and positive.
4. Attempting to date. Well, first you need to find someone to actually date. You can look for someone online, hope to meet someone at the (cliche) park or zoo—maybe your friend has another guy for you to meet? Once you secure a night out, oh wait, you need to secure a sitter. Now that you have a sitter, it's time to go out and abide by said sitter's curfew. Then you get to pay someone big bucks for watching your kid. Sometimes it's easier to stay home and watch Netflix. And on the nights you watch TV, enjoy it and relax. It will make your next night out, martini in hand, even better!
5. Fun interrogations, NOT. When my son started at his new school, a lot of the married mums couldn't believe I was a single mum. "Are you OK?" They were, like, really concerned. After explaining that we were dandy, they still showed sympathetic looks and touched my shoulder. Remember, sometimes people project their own crap on you. Next time someone asks how you are, ask how they are. Maybe they are going through something rocky. And, hey, maybe they are genuinely concerned. Try to see the good in the Q.
6. Answering Qs. Family, friends, and strangers will want to know if you want to get married and have more kids. For me, this is the equivalent of someone asking me if I want to jet off to Greece tomorrow. I mean, if the opportunity arises I would certainly … go to Greece. Life is a big mystery. I never count myself out. Anything can happen!
7. Enjoying smothering love and affection. My child is hands down obsessed with me. Obviously, I'm his only parent, his mom-dad, but my family and friends are ever-present. It doesn't matter, he wants to hang out with me 24/7 and it's an amazing thing. When you're a single mum, no matter what, you're not alone and you're so overwhelmingly loved and needed.
8. VERY quiet nights. I have a feeling a lot of married mums and co-parenting mums might be feeling jealous of this one, but imagine your kid going to sleep at 8 p.m. and then you're alone in your home till he wakes up. It sounds pretty glorious, but it's not all it's cracked up to be. Sometimes quiet nights are awesome—after all being a mum, single or not, is exhausting. But sometimes you want to drink wine on the deck with someone, or watch a movie with someone, or lay your head next to someone. There is no one there. The upside, you learn how to be alone. Alone without anxiety. In control. You are exactly where you're supposed to be.
9. Co-parenting stress and anxiety. Oh, fine — my kid's dad isn't an active parent and has no say about anything we do. I don't have to share my son on weekends or during the week. But a lot of single parents have to deal with straight up crap from the other parent. My single mum friend recently told me her ex-husband had a sh*t fit because she gives their kid Capri Sun. WTF? I get it, there's sugar in it. But if the kid won't drink water, what else is she supposed to do? Cold press fresh fruit and pack green juice everyday. Petty BS sucks and it's real! Be the bigger person like my friend. She calmly explained that when their son is on her time she will give him milk, Capri sun, and water. Dad can provide organic juice and whatever else he thinks their child will swig.
10. Being awesome. Single parents do everything. It's hard, but unconditionally rewarding. Even when you're sucking at life, remember, at least you're showing up. Show up for life.